Drive Smarter to get a Smarter Car (Part II)

If you stopped by yesterday you’ll have seen part one in my two part article on how to save money (and drive more efficiently) in your current car. Regardless of what that is, be it a big SUV, a hybrid or an electric city car, being smart about how you drive can help make your pennies go that little bit further. And if you don’t already own a fuel efficient car due to their higher sticker prices then following these tips will help you get that new ultra-efficient model that everyone is raving about a bit sooner.

Carpooling to work is a great way to make new friends, beat the traffic  and save money!
Carpooling to work is a great way to make new friends, beat the traffic and save money!

Photograph by Frank Farm, of www.frankfarm.org.

In part one I concentrated on the ways in which you can make sure that every trip you make is as efficient as possible by reading the road ahead, planning your journeys, keeping your car in top shape and making sure you don’t carry unnecessary weight. In part two I’m going to examine the ways in which you can change the way you make your trips. And no, I’m not going to ask you to sell your car.
More top tips for fuel efficient driving after the jump!

strong>Park and ride
This is somewhat a contentious issue in many cities around the world, but if you live somewhere where it takes a while to get through the centre of town thanks to too much traffic it may be worth your while driving to the city limits and then taking either a train or bus in. Many large metropolitan areas have special lanes for busses and trams and do special weekday deals for regular commuters. Time wise, it may be just as quick (and as cheap) to park at a large park and ride complex and take public transport further in. Before you give it a go though, do your research. Find out what the local incentives and schemes exist to help you choose the best park and ride station for your planned trips. In some countries and cities, such as my home city of Norwich, Norfolk, park and ride schemes charge by the car and not by the number of occupants. Sharing a lift with a neighbor can net you even more savings!

Get friendly. Share a car.

Not only is this a great way of meeting people who live in your neighborhood, but car share (or car pool) schemes are a sure-fire way of saving money. Sites like www.carshare.com in the UK and www.ridesearch.com/ in the US can help you find people in your area who are going your way. Sharing a ride to work can seriously reduce congestion too – just think of how many people you see on a workday driving to work with no-one else in the car. If everyone car-shared, there would be a lot fewer cars on the road in the rush-hour holding everyone up. Fewer cars means quicker journey times and, as I pointed out in part one, more efficient trips. Ask at your workplace or school to see if you can offer someone else a lift and see if you can start up your own ride-sharing scheme. Even if you only carpool with one other person and you split driving responsibilities you will be halving the number of miles traveled in your car, reducing wear and tear, lowering fuel cost and helping you save for that new smarter car. With so many cities world-wide offering special HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) only express lanes on busy commuter routes you may even find that by car sharing you can beat the queues!
Be organized. Plan your errands!

How many unnecessary trips do you make in a week because you didn’t plan your time out in the car? Try to get into the habit of making fewer trips and plan ahead so that you do all the things you need to do in one area on the same day. For example, if your dry cleaners is by your gym, or your grocery store is on the way home from work then plan to stop off and take care of both things at the same time. Drop off your laundry when you head to the gym, or plan your weekly shopping trip to take place one evening on the way home from work. It’s amazing how many miles of needless errand-driving you can save by planning ahead. Not only that, but you may find your life doesn’t seem quite so hectic when you organize your errands in this way. You can even get location-aware to-do applications for the latest smartphones which will help you to make sure you don’t forget what you have to do when you are in a particular location.
Take a hike.
Let’s be honest. Think about the trips you make on a weekly basis. How many of them are just down the road? If these trips are under a half-mile away then ask yourself why you’re driving. If you’re just nipping to see friends, or going to pick up a bottle of milk from the local convenience store and the weather is nice it’s just as easy to walk. Walking around your neighborhood is another great way to make new friends and find things you don’t notice when you’re driving by at 30 mph. It may not always be practical to walk, but if you have children or pets it’s a nice way to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air. You’ll benefit from some mile exercise too – 30 minutes of exercise a day can help reduce a whole number of health problems caused by lack of aerobic exercise.
From a smarter driving perspective, unless you’re using an electric vehicle or PHEV in electric-only mode your car will most certainly not warm up in that short, half-mile trip. A car which has not properly warmed up is the most inefficient and polluting. Even the latest hybrids can be highly inefficient and noxious for those first five miles until the engine and catalytic converter system has warmed up. That leads to higher fuel cost and higher wear of the engine.
Tackle stress. Stay calm.
Stress can be an all-too important factor in inefficient driving. Try to make your car a relaxing environment and don’t let other motorists stress you out. Leaving ten minutes early for an appointment can really help here as clock-watching in heavy traffic is bound to get the blood pressure rising. Think too about the music you play while you drive. Heavy metal music may be good to listen to when you’re working out, but listening while you drive can seriously hammer fuel efficiency. If you have children or pets, try to keep them calm and securely fastened and not running around in the passenger space. Distractions like cell phones and GPS systems can also hammer your car’s fuel efficiency. Many countries and states ban the use of handheld mobile phones as they have been proven to reduce driver concentration as much as being inebriated. If your job involves a lot of driving then plan regular breaks where you can check your voicemail, and avoid playing with in-car navigation systems when the car is in motion. Greater concentration on the road will help you to squeeze every last mile out of your car’s chosen fuel.
And finally…
Treat the speed limit as a maximum, not a minimum. Slowing down by 5 mph can have dramatic fuel savings. It will also give you more time to react in an emergency and will make you a safer driver. Give it a go and watch the mpg rise!
There we have it. Eleven easy tips to get your car running better, more efficiently and more cheaply. Why not put aside the money you save for a deposit on your next greener car. You could even consider converting your existing one to a plug in hybrid or fully electric model!
I’d love to hear from anyone who finds these tips work as they’ve certainly helped me! Drop me a line if they do.

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